Russia pummels Ukrainian cities in ‘most hellish night’
Russia’s invading forces fired waves of missiles and “kamikaze” drones on Ukraine in the early hours of Wednesday, targeting multiple cities including the Black Sea port of Odesa, where overnight explosions rocked residents for a second consecutive night.
“It was the most hellish night,” Serhiy Bratchuk, spokesperson for Odesa’s military administration, said in a video statement.
Ukraine’s air force said 37 out of a total of 63 missiles and drones aimed at “critical infrastructure and military facilities”, mostly in Odesa, had been intercepted.
The strikes, which also aimed at the capital Kyiv, come two days after Russia withdrew from last year’s UN-brokered agreement to allow Ukrainian Black Sea grain exports towards global markets to continue despite the war.
Chipmaker ASML’s quarterly sales rise 27%, outstripping forecasts
ASML’s sales beat market forecasts to jump 27 per cent in the third quarter to €6.9bn, as the Dutch chip equipment maker said that some electronics markets “seem to be bottoming out”.
Europe’s most valuable technology company also projected better than expected net sales for the rest of the year, after net income grew 37 per cent to €1.9bn for the three months to early July, but customers remain “more cautious”.
Chief executive Peter Wennink said demand continued to exceed supply of its microchip-printing DUV machines, driven largely by Chinese customers.
New Dutch export controls, which are primarily designed to restrict sales of certain DUV machines to China, would not have a “significant impact” on its business, he added.
American chosen to be European Commission’s chief competition economist withdraws from role
The American economist chosen for one of the top posts in the European Commission’s competition division has withdrawn after the appointment provoked a backlash led by France.
Fiona Scott Morton, a former Obama administration official, has decided not to take up the post of chief competition economist, Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s executive vice president in charge of competition, said in a tweet.
The decision, which Vestager said she accepted “with regret”, came after French president Emmanuel Macron attacked the appointment as “extremely worrying”, saying it would be better to find a “great European” to police Big Tech.
Tata Group to build £4bn UK battery factory to supply JLR
Tata Group will build a £4bn battery factory in the UK to supply Jaguar Land Rover’s electric cars, the company said on Wednesday, after securing state assistance from the government.
Tata, owner of JLR, chose a site in Somerset in south-west England for the gigafactory, which will have capacity to produce 40GWh of cells, with supplies commencing from 2026.
The UK government said the investment “will create up to 4,000 new direct jobs, and thousands more in the wider supply chain”. Financial details were not disclosed, but Tata had asked for £500mn of state assistance from the UK.
Prime minister Rishi Sunak said this would “strengthen our lead in the global transition to electric vehicles”.
Sterling falls on lower than expected UK inflation
Sterling fell 0.75 per cent against the dollar after official figures showed signs of cooling UK inflation.
The pound fell to $1.2939 in early trade, its lowest level since 12 July, as softer than expected inflation data showed that consumer prices rose by 7.9 per cent in the year to June, down from 8.7 per cent in May.
The inflation figures make it more likely that the Bank of England will lift interest rates by 0.25 percentage points in August to 5.25 per cent, rather than another 0.5 percentage point increase.
UK inflation falls to 7.9% in June, below forecasts
UK inflation eased more than expected to 7.9 per cent in June, providing some relief for the Bank of England ahead of its monetary policy decision on August 3.
Annual inflation was down from 8.7 per cent in May, the Office for National Statistics said on Wednesday. It was lower than the 8.2 per cent forecast by economists polled by Reuters, ending a four-month period of price growth that exceeded forecasts.
Core inflation, which strips out volatile food, energy, alcohol and tobacco prices, also declined to 6.9 per cent from a 31-year high of 7.1 per cent in the previous month. Analysts expected it to be unchanged.
Services inflation eased to 7.2 per cent from a 31-year high of 7.4 per cent in May.
Both core and services inflation are closely watched by policymakers to monitor underlying and domestic price pressures and decide on interest rates.
Chinese stocks lead Asian markets lower on economy concerns
Asian equities declined on Wednesday as China’s sluggish economic recovery and the government’s slow rollout of stimulus measures weighed on market sentiment.
The Hang Seng index dropped 1.2 per cent at midday, with Chinese technology stocks including Baidu, Bilibili and JD.com among the biggest drags. China’s blue-chip CSI 300 index slipped 0.4 per cent.
Elsewhere in markets, the Kospi benchmark of South Korean shares dipped 0.3 per cent. Japan’s Topix gained 0.7 per cent on the back of a weak yen and expectations that the country will maintain its ultra-loose monetary policy.
What to watch in Europe today
Events: The UK Parliament’s Treasury committee is expected to take evidence from the Financial Conduct Authority on concerns about its handling of Odey Asset Management and its founder’s non-financial misconduct. The Money Macro and Finance Society in London hosts a speech by Bank of England deputy governor Sir Dave Ramsden on quantitative tightening.
Indicators: Consumer, retail and producer price inflation rate figures are expected. UK inflation is expected to have slowed to 8.2 per cent in June, down from 8.7 per cent in May, according to a Reuters poll. The BoE sees a decline of 7.9 per cent. The Office for National Statistics is slated to release its house price index, a closely watched metric as the real estate sector shows signs of a slowdown amid higher mortgage rates. EU inflation figures are also expected.
Results: Earnings or trading updates are expected from British financial services group Hargreaves Lansdown and water company Severn Trent.
China ecommerce site Temu hits rival Shein with US antitrust suit
Online shopping site Temu has accused rival Shein of “unlawful exclusionary tactics” in the US, intensifying a battle between two of China’s biggest ecommerce groups for dominance of the American market.
Temu accused Shein of violating US antitrust laws in a suit filed on Friday.
“Shein’s escalating attacks leave us no choice but to take legal measures to defend our rights,” the company said, adding that Shein had used fines and exclusive deals to prevent merchants from dealing with Temu.
Both companies have grown rapidly in the US market, capturing the attention of consumers with low-cost designs.
Shein did not respond to a request for comment.
Woodside revenues slide amid cooling oil prices and lower production
Woodside Energy, Australia’s largest oil and gas producer, on Wednesday reported worse-than-expected revenue for the second quarter, citing weak prices and lower production caused by maintenance at facilities in Western Australia.
The company recorded quarterly revenue of $3.08bn, down 10 per cent from a year earlier and missing a UBS forecast of $3.33bn. Oil sales dropped 4 per cent from the previous three-month period to 48.4mn barrels. Production fell 5 per cent to 44.5mn barrels.
Energy prices have cooled as panic subsided over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and subsequent sanctions imposed. China’s slowing growth is projected to further dent global fuel demand.
Rio Tinto offers upbeat outlook despite drag from slowing China
Mining giant Rio Tinto has said that China’s economic recovery slowed in the second quarter as weakness in the export and property sectors provided a drag on growth.
The Anglo-Australian company, a key exporter of minerals to China, said that it expects its iron ore shipments to be as much as 335mn tonnes, at the top end of the range, offsetting a deteriorating outlook for copper and bauxite.
Rio Tinto’s second-quarter production report showed a stabilising of its iron ore operations in the Pilbara region of Western Australia and guided towards a trebling of copper production from its Oyu Tolgoi mine in Mongolia by the end of the decade.
What to watch in Asia today
Events: It’s a busy day for the regional shipping industry with Intermodal Asia, a trade fair for transport and container experts, opening in Shanghai, while the International Marine Contractors Association hosts its annual Asia-Pacific meeting in Singapore. Bank of Thailand governor Sethaput Suthiwartnarueput holds a media briefing on the economy and monetary policy.
Data: New Zealand releases second-quarter inflation data. Indonesia issues second-quarter investment numbers, Malaysia presents June trade figures and Macau publishes June tourist arrivals.
Companies: Adani Green Energy, Adani Power and Adani Transmission hold their first annual meetings since US-based short seller Hindenburg Research produced a report critical of Adani Group companies. India’s Tata Communications and Tata Coffee present first-quarter earnings, while Indonesian toll road operator Jasa Marga provides second-quarter earnings.
Markets: The Indonesian and Malaysian stock exchanges are closed for Muharram, the Islamic new year.
Kremlin appoints Chechnyan official to run Danone Russia
Russia has appointed a senior official from Chechnya to run Danone’s assets in the country after President Vladimir Putin nationalised them earlier this week.
Yakub Zakriev, the province’s agriculture minister and reportedly a nephew of its strongman leader Ramzan Kadyrov, was made chief executive of Danone Russia on Tuesday, according to corporate records.
Danone had been days away from finalising the sale of the asset to another prospective buyer before Putin ordered its seizure as well as breweries owned by Denmark’s Carlsberg.
The expropriations, announced on Sunday, are a prelude to transfers of foreign assets to regime loyalists who would be unable to buy them directly due to sanctions, analysts and insiders say.
Panama convicts former president of money laundering
Panama’s former president Ricardo Martinelli was sentenced to 10 years in prison for money laundering on Tuesday, throwing into question the popular politician’s bid to be re-elected next year.
The supermarket tycoon was convicted of laundering money from public contracts through a complex scheme to purchase a media company, and was also ordered to pay a fine of $19.2mn.
Martinelli has said he believes the charges are politically motivated and his lawyers said on Tuesday that he would appeal against the decision.
Read more about Panama here.
Johnson & Johnson sues US government over drug price controls
Johnson & Johnson has sued the US government, challenging a law that gives federal authorities the power to negotiate prices for expensive drugs.
The pharmaceutical company said on Tuesday it had filed suit against the US Department of Health and Human Services and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Johnson & Johnson said it objected to what it calls an “innovation-damaging” provision of the Inflation Reduction Act that allows Medicare — the taxpayer-funded healthcare scheme for retirees — to negotiate drug prices.
The company joins Merck, Bristol Myers Squibb and the lobby group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America in challenging the new law.
Gucci chief Marco Bizzarri to depart in management overhaul
French luxury group Kering has announced a management overhaul that will parachute in a transitional leader to fix underperformance at Gucci, its biggest brand.
Francesca Bellettini, who has led an expansion at Yves Saint Laurent since 2013, will become deputy chief executive to steer the “next stages of growth”.
Gucci chief Marco Bizzarri will step down in September and be replaced temporarily by chief operating officer Jean-François Palus.
The moves by Kering chair and chief executive François-Henri Pinault on Tuesday aim to give a new direction to the group that has struggled to deliver growth at the pace of sector leader LVMH.